North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un visited an army command post during a 'tactical nuclear strike drill' that involved the launch of two ballistic missiles
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Image: AFP AFP News

North Korea's falling birth rate has its leader, Kim Jong Un, immensely worried. He was recently seen crying and urging North Korean women to have more children.

In a video that has gone viral on social media platforms, he can be seen wiping away his tears as he urges women to have more children.

"Stopping the decline in birthrates and providing good child care and education are all our family affairs that we should solve together with our mothers," he said at the Fifth National Conference of Mothers in Pyongyang on Sunday.

"Preventing a decline in birth rates and good childcare are all of our housekeeping duties we need to handle while working with mothers," Kim was quoted as saying by Reuters. "I too always think about mothers when I have a hard time dealing with the party and the state's work," he added.

According to an analysis by the United Nations Population Fund, there has been a significant fall in the birth rate in North Korea in recent decades.

In 2023, its average fertility rate, or the average number of children born, stood at 1.8. The fertility rate in South Korea has also seen a decline in recent years.

Despite the declining trend, the birth rate in North Korea has been higher than some of its neighbours.

North Korea is a highly centralised, one-party totalitarian dictatorship. It has been ruled by one family for decades. Three generations of the Kim family have ruled the country with absolute repression, making it one of the world's most repressive states.

The government has absolute control over its citizens' lives, and people have no freedom of expression, assembly, association, or religion.

Last year, it reportedly asked parents to give their children patriotic names. Kim reportedly said that names like A Ri (loved one) and Su Mi (super beauty) are "soft" and "anti-socialist," as they do not end in consonants.

Therefore, the authorities asked parents to use names like Chong Il (gun), Pok Il (bomb), Chung Sim (loyalty), and Ui Song (satellite).

The government even threatened to slap people with fines if they did not comply with these instructions. The officials also made it clear that the names should not be similar to those in South Korea, which are "a copy of the decadent Western Yankee culture." People have been asked to avoid using a mixture of names from neighbouring countries.

North Korea has a population of about 25 million people and has seen several challenges, including a severe food shortage. The UN special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea revealed that around 42% of the North Korean population is currently malnourished.

A report by UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and the World Bank Group released in May claimed that malnutrition due to food shortages is hindering the physical and mental development of North Koreans. It said that around one in six North Korean children under the age of 5 suffers from stunted growth due to malnutrition.